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A visit to the United Nations

A visit to the United Nations

After a walkabout in the area of Times Square, we walked over to the location of the United Nations complex in time to take one of their guided tours. On one side of the road there is the office tower of the United Nations, while on the opposite side of the road and along nearby streets, there are the offices of the many countries that need additional room for their staff, supporters and lobbyists. I live in Canada’s National Capital Region so I am used to seeing plenty of embassy buildings, but I am still surprised at the size and number of offices that some of the the ‘poorer’ countries must maintain around the world in order to lobby for money or support or to have a voice in international events. Participation at the level of the United Nations adds to that diplomatic cost.

We arrived at the United Nations building and passed through the mandatory screening procedures in time to purchase tickets for one of the late afternoon tours.

While waiting for our scheduled tour time, we went down to the lower level where the various ‘retail’ outlets of the United Nations are located. I posted a card at the United Nations Post Office ant two weeks later it is still enroute (hasn’t arrived at its destination yet). Hopefully, all United Nations correspondence isn’t that slow!

Our tour leader was Katrina, wearing the national dress of the Ukraine, provided copious amounts of information about the building , its exhibits and the activities of the United Nations during our tour which lasted about 50 minutes (I wasn’t timing precisely).  United Nations Guides, also referred to as United Nations Ambassadors, have been providing tours of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City since the first tour, 60 years ago, in 1952. I forgot to ask how many tour guides are hired now but, with a million or more visitors a year, I expect that the number of guides is much higher than the 10 who were doing the job in 1952 :-).

We asked Katrina a number of questions about her job and she told us that the guides get a briefing each morning so that they can be kept current on the developing activities and issues of the United Nations. The building is undergoing renovation and some areas could not be visited and some of the meeting areas were temporary in nature. Membership in the United States has grown steadily from the 51 countries who were the original members when the United Nations was formed in 1945 after the completion of World War II to the 191 official member states of today.  I also saw this number as 192 and 193 in current displays and information so the exact number might be a bit fluid or changing too rapidly for displays to keep up :-).  The Holy See  (the Vatican) has chosen to have observatory status rather than full status of a member state.

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